The latest automotive icon that Tesla is setting out to smash: side mirrors (wing mirrors to our British friends). Eagle-eyed EV watchers may have noticed that the original concept of the Model X had no mirrors, and neither does Volkswagen’s diesel hybrid spaceship, the XL1.
According to John Voelcker of Green Car Reports, the rear-view mirror was introduced in 1914, and hasn’t changed much since. Replacing mirrors with cameras and video displays doesn’t just make cars look cooler – it can reduce wind resistance by 3 to 6 percent, according to Tesla design head Franz von Holzhausen, who Alison van Diggelen recently interviewed in her blog Fresh Dialogues.
Alas, as is so often the case, government regulations lag far behind technical innovations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates rearview mirrors under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #111, and getting rid of them is not an option (VW managed to persuade the German authorities to eliminate a similar regulation, and has no plans to sell the XL1 in the US).
As Herr von Holzhausen told Mevrouw van Diggelen, Tesla is currently negotiating with the NHTSA to get the necessary permissions, which we hope will be forthcoming in time for the launch of the Model X in 2014.
This probably won’t be the last time Tesla acts as the catalyst to sweep away outdated regulations. As Elon Musk told Ms van Diggelen in an earlier interview, “The body of regulation for cars could fill this room. It’s just crazy how much regulation there is. Down to what the headlamps are supposed to be like. They even specify some of the elements of the user interface on the dashboard…some of these are completely anachronistic.”